UK Government Sets Out Research and Development Roadmap

A new R&D People and Culture Strategy, a £300 million investment package to modernise scientific infrastructure and the establishment of an Office for Talent are amongst plans outlined in the UK Government’s Research and Development Roadmap.

The plans, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), set out the UK Government’s vision and ambition for science, research and innovation and establish how the Government will achieve its long-term ambition to ensure the UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live and work.

One of the roadmap’s main goals is to strengthen science, research and innovation across the UK to ensure the sector is prepared to tackle the country’s major challenges. These include achieving net zero carbon emissions, building resilience to the impacts of climate change, closing the productivity gap and embracing the transformative potential of new technologies to improve the quality of life.

The roadmap sets out how the Government wants to work with universities, business, the third sector and across government to cement the UK’s reputation as a science superpower. It is also designed to ensure the UK’s R&D system is fit for purpose now and in the future, which will require tackling fundamental and challenging questions about R&D priorities and addressing long-term problems in the system.

Notably, the plan is outward-facing in nature, and one of its ambitions is to ensure that the UK’s science and innovation community, people, institutions, and infrastructure attract collaboration and investment from across the globe. The Government envisions the UK as a partner of choice for other world-leading research and innovation nations, while strengthening R&D partnerships with emerging and developing countries.

This ambition will be achieved while maintaining a close and friendly collaborative relationship with European partners. The roadmap notes that the UK plans on agreeing a fair and balanced deal for participation in EU R&D schemes. Crucially however, if the country does not associate to programmes such as Horizon Europe, the Government pledges to meet any funding shortfalls and put alternative schemes in place.

In addition, the roadmap will enable the Government to test in detail how the UK can:

Increase its investment in research, unlocking new discoveries and applying research to solving the most pressing problems in government, industry and across society. The roadmap embraces the notion that transformative research has a high chance of failure but can produce the greatest long-term rewards, especially when combined with support for applied research, development and implementation. The Government will to foster a diverse culture where people with a wide range of experiences and insights are confident to lead, participate and engage. In the longer term, the Government will review how it funds and assesses discovery and applied research to cut unnecessary bureaucracy, pursue ambitious ‘moonshots’, and ensure that institutional funding and international collaboration can support the Government’s ambitions.

Become world-class at securing the economic and social benefits from research. An Innovation Expert Group will be established to help review and improve support for the whole innovation system, including strengthening the interactions between discovery research, applied research, innovation, commercialisation and deployment. This will take account of the different innovation support systems across the four nations. It will be critical to stimulate private sector investment and support public services to get the most out of the nation’s research base.

Support entrepreneurs and start-ups and increase the flow of capital into firms carrying out R&D enabling them to scale up. The Government will exploit competitive and comparative advantage where the UK can lead the world in key industries, technologies and ideas, and ensure the UK has the best regulatory system to support research and development.

Attract, retain and develop talented, diverse people and teams. This will involve the creation of an R&D People and Culture Strategy to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of careers throughout the R&D workforce. The Government will also set up an Office for Talent to lead on a new and proactive approach to attracting and retaining the most promising global science, research and innovation talent to the UK.

Take greater account of place-based outcomes in how R&D decisions are made. The Government will work collaboratively across the UK, fostering greater collaboration and networks between funders, researchers, practitioners and civic leaders to embed a system that delivers stronger local economic benefit and improved quality of life outcomes from R&D. This will be delivered through a new UK R&D Place Strategy to unlock local growth and societal benefit from R&D across the UK.

Provide long-term flexible investment in infrastructure and institutions to develop and maintain cutting-edge research, development and innovation infrastructure, with agile and resilient institutions able to play their fullest role.

Engage in new and imaginative ways to ensure that the UK’s science, research and innovation system is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the whole of society, delivering better quality of life, economic growth and environmental improvements. The aim is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in R&D in a wide range of sectors and show that science is for everyone.

The Government will continue to develop the proposals set out in the roadmap in close alignment with the devolved administrations where the plans cover or impact on their devolved policy responsibilities. Throughout this process, the Government is actively seeking feedback on its proposals as part of a ‘big conversation’ about what actions need to be taken and how. All interested respondents are invited to submit responses to the plans via the online survey about research and development.

Feedback may be submitted until 12 August 2020.

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